Medieval and Early Modern
The English department has long been committed to teaching and research in the field of medieval and early modern studies, and our faculty members' wide-ranging professional interests in English literature and culture from the ninth through the seventeenth centuries cross disciplinary boundaries. Departmental research strengths include Anglo-Saxon literature, Middle English literature, manuscript studies, secular and religious poetry, non-fiction, religious drama and drama of the public playhouses, Chaucer, Shakespeare, civic and royal pageantry, early modern print culture, and the literature of the English Reformation.
Course work and supervision in the Department provide students with opportunities to engage with the critical concerns that are now central to medieval and early modern studies: nationalisms (like the ceremonial representation of monarchy); interculturalisms (such as the mutual influences of Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon culture on each other, or the incorporation of Mediterranean and "New World" cultures in English literature); textual transmission (for example, publication of medieval texts via scriptoria, or the role of print on sixteenth-century religious developments); the relationship between script and performance (such as the fraught question of "authenticity" in Shakespearean performance, or the relation between "readerly" texts and "performance" texts); the influence of Tudor humanism (on, for instance, educational reforms); the reinterpretation of medieval narratives such as the Arthurian cycles of stories by nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers such as Tennyson and White; and the burgeoning field of Anglo-Latin literature studies.
In the past several years, the department has offered graduate courses on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Arthurian Literature, city comedy, the literature of London, early modern revenge tragedy, and early modern women's writing. Our graduate students work on an array of topics in the field. Recently, graduate projects have included doctoral dissertations on the representation of Cleopatra in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and the literary afterlives of Queen Mary I. Master's students have written theses on, for example, economic issues in city comedies, the influence of Roman political values on early modern English literature, and seventeenth-century devotional writings. Currently, Master's students are writing on early medieval topics such as the development of hagiographical writings about saints in Anglo-Saxon England. We encourage and will consider applications from students who are interested in studying any aspect of medieval or early modern literature.
The university library's holdings of medieval and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature and scholarly volumes on related topics are among the best in the country. Through its very active acquisitions program, the library also has a well-established rare book collection that includes facsimiles of medieval manuscripts and some late medieval manuscripts, and students can make use of Bishop Mullock's nineteenth-century library (housed in the St. John's Basilica), which contains a fine collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes. In addition, St. John's has a vibrant theatre scene, and continues to build on a long and vital tradition of Shakespeare productions.
Faculty Working in this Area